Twenty Years Ago This Month - Big George Foreman And His Comeback Dream
04.03.07 - By James Slater: Twenty years ago this very month, former heavyweight champion of the world George Foreman was about to shock the boxing world by making a return to the sport some ten years after leaving it. Though in his heyday George had been one of the most powerful and respected of big men, his intention to box again while aged almost forty was considered to be nothing more than a joke. And a bad one at that. Did he need the money? Was he crazy? Would he get badly hurt? These were just some of the many questions Georgeís comeback raised.
Article posted on 05.03.2007
But Foreman, who had turned into a man of God after discovering his saviour in a steamy dressing room in Puerto Rico moments after his final fight - a points loss over twelve rounds to Jimmy Young - was determined to fight once more. On March the 9th, 1987, in Sacramento, he did.
Boxing one Steve Zouski, George triumphed in four rounds. The win was his, yet so was much derision. George had weighed in for the bout at a whopping 267 pounds, which was a poundage that way exceeded his peak fighting weight.
Foreman, too, had looked both flabby and slow. His jab was still decent, but nothing else reminded the critics of any of the young George Foremanís awesome punches. Still, the win got George his momentum started. Momentum, he assured us, that would take him all the way back to the heavyweight title.
The point I wish to raise in this article is just how much the boxing landscape has changed since Georgeís comeback. Indeed, he himself is responsible for many of these changes. For example, no longer is it considered crazy for a man of nearly forty or over to want to box. Just look at all the veteran heavyweights fighting today. And fighting well, I may add. Oliver McCall - forty-one, is in the WBC top ten, Oleg Maskaev - thirty-seven, is a world champion, James Toney- thirty-eight, is a world ranked contender and the list goes on. Back when George laced his gloves back up, however, he was very much a one-off. Neither is it considered disgraceful for a heavyweight as tall as Foreman to weigh in the region of 250-260 pounds these days. Back in the late í80ís though, such a heavy weight was said to show laziness in the gym. The fact that George eventually got down as low as 235 should have told the experts how hard he was capable of training still, even as a veteran.
The quality of Foremanís opposition was criticised too. But when we look back at the men George fought, they werenít a bad bunch at all really. This side of boxing has changed also. Consider, Foremanís opponents were pretty much savaged by the experts for their perceived lack of quality. But when one analyses them, as I will do in the next paragraph, it is evident that they were perhaps better, or certainly no worse, that the class of opponent todayís heavyweight contenders fight. And George was coming back after ten years out, donít forget. I do feel as though the fight game was somewhat tougher back in 1987. Certainly the critics were tougher on fighters.
When Mike Tyson, for example, made his comeback in 1995 he signed to box the awful Peter McNeely. But did anyone moan too loudly? No, the fight was a huge event and made a fortune. George, on the other hand, fought in near obscurity for around twenty thousand dollar purses and had to fight often to get attention. Not for him was there a cosy road to take back to the title. The boxing comeback was very much reborn due to this remarkable fighter, however. But letís now take a look at the type of men George met in the first couple of years of his return.
Opponent number one, Steve Zouski, wasnít a bad choice, calibre wise, for George to fight after ten years out. He had been in with Tyson, going three rounds with the up-and-coming ďKid Dynamite.Ē Steve had a chin then, at least. George also met Bobby Crabtree, who, years later, was good enough to destroy the highly touted King Ipitan in a single round. Bobby had also been
in with the likes of James Tillis, Tony Tucker, Francesco Damiani and Renaldo Snipes prior to hooking up with Big George. Again then, certainly no stiff. Dwight Qawi was a former two-time world champion, Tony Fulliangi, the heavyweight from Tonga, was 37-3-1 with 33 KOís going in to his fight with George. And what about Bert Cooper, the man who came within a whisker of
flattening Evander Holyfield for a ten count?
Everett Martin was another tough guy George beat in his comeback ďBig Foot,Ē as we know, went the distance with practically everyone - including Gary Mason, Michael Moorer (who Martin decked) Tony Tucker, Herbie Hide AND Wladimir Klitschko. Throw in his win over Tim Witherspoon and you can see the danger Everett might have brought to his fight with Foreman. Then George met the likes of Gerry Cooney, Adilson Rodrigues and Terry Anderson, before getting his first title shot, against Holyfield. His comeback opponents then, were not bad at all. Yet at the time George was savaged by the critics for fighting dead bodies.
In reality, as he proved against Moorer in 1994, George was fighting the perfect comeback. Today, in the boxing world we all live, I think the way in which George Foreman went about things is recognised as having been more than acceptable. Certainly, the majority of todayís heavyweights donít take any tougher a route.
Big George Foreman, the mastermind behind the greatest comeback in heavyweight boxing history!
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